South Africa show fight on day one against NZ

Rachin Ravindra picked up three wickets for New Zealand against South Africa on day one at Seddon Park in Hamilton. Photo: Getty
Rachin Ravindra picked up three wickets for New Zealand against South Africa on day one at Seddon Park in Hamilton. Photo: Getty
After omitting their specialist spinner to select four seamers, New Zealand required the orthodox of Rachin Ravindra to guide them on the first day of the second test.

South Africa opted to bat and proved difficult to break down at Seddon Park, frustrating a blunt opposing attack to a degree they rarely managed in last week’s 281-run defeat at Bay Oval.

But as the Black Caps quicks found only occasional joy during a long day in the field, Ravindra turned in another strong day-one performance, this time with the ball.

The 24-year-old began at the Mount with a maiden test century, converting that ton into a score of 240 on day two. In Hamilton on Tuesday, he shone especially in a 16-over spell broken only by tea, reaping 3-24 in that span.

An understrength Proteas appeared more comfortable once they had seen off the left-armer, reaching stumps on 220-6 in their unlikely - but now enhanced - bid to save the series.

Ravindra bowled a tight line to an attacking field and, although he benefited from one rash shot and another bizarre dismissal, his precise efforts were essential in lessening any second-guessing from New Zealand’s selectors.

The pedigree of Seddon Park and green hue of the pitch seemed to support the decision to leave out Mitchell Santner, who had picked up six wickets in each of his previous two tests. Kyle Jamieson was also excluded after feeling back soreness following the first test, what the team called “an ultra-cautious approach” ahead of Australia’s imminent visit.

Introduced were 22-year-old debutant Will O’Rourke and 37-year-old veteran Neil Wagner, forming with Tim Southee and Matt Henry the type of seam quartet that would likely be employed against the world No 1-ranked neighbours.

But after Henry removed Clyde Fortuin in the second over - courtesy of Glenn Phillips’ terrific gully catch - and O’Rourke dismissed Neil Brand for a maiden scalp in his third over, the tourists started to grind down the pacemen.

With the surface providing plenty of bounce but little movement, the batters largely left anything short and defended the offerings on a length. It made for slow going and highlights were few, until Wagner ensured lunch would sit a bit better by finding a thick edge from Raynard van Tonder.

South Africa resumed on 64-3 and, after 35 overs of seam to begin the test, Ravindra took the ball before delivering a double breakthrough.

The first was a moment Zubayr Hamza would want to forget, battling for more than two hours to reach 20 only to throw away his wicket with a top edge from an unseemly slog sweep.

Ravindra’s second came from a fine piece of bowling, ending the short stay of Keegan Petersen by inducing an edge that Southee took well at slip, the skipper having deployed as many as four catchers near the wicket.

It couldn’t have been what Southee had anticipated on arrival this morning - and must have given the tourists some hope after they had brought two tweakers into their XI.

Having sent down six maidens while conceding nine runs before tea, Ravindra resumed and snared a third wicket, fortunate as David Bedingham turned the ball on to his foot and despairingly watched it balloon to short leg.

South Africa were reduced to 150-6, the hosts no doubt eyeing a bat before stumps. But the pace attack was equally luckless with a second new ball in the waning sun, as Ruan de Swardt compiled a maiden test fifty.

The 1.97m O’Rourke at least achieved his stated aim of running in hard and hitting the wicket harder, consistently exceeding 140kmh to generate good carry, but his extra bounce was occasionally inaccurate.

His senior cohort, meanwhile, struggled to pose much threat, exemplified by a late review of desperation from Southee, his lbw shout likely missing fourth stump.